Alumni Spotlight

From New College Grad to System Administrator after Springboard

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Liz Eggleston

Edited By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on November 15, 2023

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College student Gabrielle Oler was beginning a career in early childhood education, but already realized she needed more financial stability, job security, and industry growth. After hearing about the opportunities in cybersecurity, Gabrielle was sold on Springboard for their accelerated learning style, asynchronous scheduling, flexible payment plans, and job guarantee! Find out what Gabrielle learned in the Cybersecurity Career Track at Springboard, what she wishes she knew before enrolling in a bootcamp, and what she’s doing now as a System Administrator at Coherent Technical Services, Inc.!

What inspired you to study cybersecurity while finishing college?

I finished my bachelor's degree in December but didn’t graduate until May, so I had six months where I had to figure out what to do. Even after I was done with all my coursework for my degree, I still didn’t feel prepared for any jobs in my field! I was going to be a teacher because I love working with kids and was a preschool teacher for 3 years by that time,  but I didn't want to do it anymore. 

My main personal goal was financial independence. I wanted to be able to live on my own and travel. I asked my dad for advice, and he suggested cybersecurity. I rejected the idea at first because I didn’t feel particularly tech savvy and I didn’t want to work on computers. He told me about roles in governance and risk and compliance, which are more about writing policy than the technical side. After some research, I realized cybersecurity could be a possibility for me. 

There are so many cybersecurity bootcamps — What stood out about Springboard’s Cybersecurity Career Track?

The reasons why I chose Springboard is: 

  • Asynchronous learning — I was working during the day as a preschool teacher so I needed flexible scheduling. 
  • Accelerated learning — I wanted to be done within five months. Springboard said that if I dedicated enough hours per week, I could finish the bootcamp within four months.
  • Payment options — Their job guarantee meant not paying for tuition until I found a job! 

Did you have to know basic cybersecurity skills or coding in order to apply to Springboard’s Cybersecurity Career Track?

No, I didn't need any cybersecurity experience to start. It was important to them that I had some level of higher education and experience with online learning. Ten minutes after I applied, I got an informal phone call, gauging my level of interest and commitment and what my goals were. 

Did you have to complete any prework?

There wasn’t a prep course, but Springboard gave me access to the whole course two weeks in advance! I need to plan for things and have milestones, so I gave myself a general plan for each month with what courses to complete. 

What was a typical day or week like in the cybersecurity bootcamp? 

I usually mapped out my week the week before. I put in 20-30 hours a week. There was a mix of reading, videos, labs, and writing. I never got bored — if I did, I could just move on to the next thing and come back to it. 

What did you learn in the Cybersecurity Career Track?

I only use 20-30% of what I learned at Springboard in my job now because they offer such a huge range of topics and skills to learn! Springboard’s intent is to produce a highly prepared cybersecurity professional, since there are so many different roles with their own needs for each. The one thing that really sticks out to me now is using Nessus to scan for vulnerabilities, which I do monthly in my current job. Attending Springboard gave me an appreciation for computers, technology, and how it all communicates. 

Mentorship is such a key component of the Springboard program. What was your cybersecurity mentor like?

My mentor's name was Victor, and he’s been a cybersecurity professional for decades! He was able to offer a lot of great insight on his experiences in the field. We met every two weeks. I was shy when we first met, but he was super nice and supportive, always checking in on me. I didn't use him as much as I should or could have, but when I was struggling with something I used his support to help me through it, like moving on to a different task and coming back to it so I didn’t lose progress. 

Most of the time when we met, we would review my progress:  what makes sense now and what I’m struggling with. He was always available via email and responded quickly when I needed help. Victor was impressed with my progress because I would be three chapters ahead, trying to move through it as quickly as I could. 

What kinds of projects or labs did you work on in the bootcamp?

There were tons of labs and projects! I conducted a penetration test, which is an actual cybersecurity job helping a company figure out where they're vulnerable, whether that's the attack service of the computers they use or trying to help their security posture. I never really had an interest in penetration testing, but when I did that project I found out it was actually a lot of writing, policy, and ensuring clear communication to people who aren't in your field, usually management and other company stakeholders who won’t understand all the technical terms. Bridging that gap gave me an appreciation that in cybersecurity it’s not always just computers and no human interaction — there’s actually a good balance between the two! 

There were a lot of different labs using different tools, like Nessus, Burp Suite, Snort, and FireShark. It was helpful to learn these cybersecurity tools in a bootcamp so that I had familiarity with them when I got the job.

Did Springboard prepare you for any cybersecurity or networking certifications?

Springboard prepared us for CompTIA Security+, which is a big certification in this industry. I think of it as the entry-level certification because there's higher ones that you have to wait 5 or 6 years to get. At the time, I didn’t think I would know enough to pass the Security+ exam, but now I don’t think I could have been any more prepared! 

How did Springboard prepare you for the tech job hunt? 

Springboard takes their job guarantee very seriously! Career services are built into the curriculum, so after each technical chapter there was a job chapter on networking and conducting informational interviews. I liked the break in the format. 

The way I got my current job was through an informational interview. They reached out after I graduated with a job in mind for me. I didn’t get to use the career services after I graduated, but they were super helpful preparing me while I was in the bootcamp!

Which tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating?

None of them because every job wanted two years experience with a degree in this field plus certifications! Once I got my Security+, I applied to at least 20 jobs a week. I was really serious and wanted to get a job but was having no luck. I didn't have a lot of luck applying online. It was easier for me to network and get a job that way, which is what Springboard emphasized — that it's better to know somebody who knows somebody. I applied to any entry-level role and I didn't have any specific job in mind.

Now you’re working as a System Administrator at Coherent Technical Services, Inc.!

Were they interested in your Springboard experience or cybersecurity certification?

They were very interested in my Security+ certification since it’s what’s needed to work in security for the government. They wanted to know how well I did on the test and where I struggled. They were really concerned about my strengths and weaknesses on the exam. 

They were also interested in my Springboard experience because they needed to ensure I could do the role of a system administrator. Luckily, they were very patient with me and knew that I was fresh, without years of experience in the tech world. 

What does a System Administrator do? 

I am a government contractor, so I work on base and work in a lab with engineers that are responsible for the software that's on these machines. I make sure that the machines are secure — that nobody can mess with the software, take the software or harm the computers that they work on. Technically, my job falls under IT, even though I'm not very technical in that sense, but most of the stuff I'm doing is just to remain compliant with DoD standards. 

I do Nessus scans to scan for vulnerabilities to ensure that they are not vulnerable to anything like cross-site scripting. I also harden them, so I have to do something called a STIG (Security Template Implementation Guide). I implement the STIGs on the computers. I'm the maintenance and my engineers are the production, and we work together. 

At this point in your tech career, was Springboard worth it for you? 

Most definitely! I recommend Springboard to anyone looking to make a career change. It was a great experience for me. The program is well-designed. I never had any technical issues and everything flowed perfectly. I had support when I struggled with content and was able to talk to other students, alumni, and mentors through a chat. I cannot speak highly enough about my experience at Springboard. It worked really well for me and I'm very happy!

What is the next rung on the cybersecurity career ladder that you’re aiming for?

I’ve started my master's degree in cybersecurity technology, which I'm really excited about because I love school! My job offered to pay for my school if I stayed for a year after I finished. I started school last month and I'm shooting to finish by next December. It's a short master's degree, which was my goal. 

My master's program is fun because it's what I do for work already. Once I’m done with my master’s I’d like to study for a CISSP certification that management-level people in cybersecurity have. It requires at least five years experience working different jobs within cybersecurity to apply for that certification and take the test. It's usually a big step for people in my field.

Have you found that there are any transferable skills between early childhood education and cybersecurity? 

The most transferable skills from my education career are the soft skills related to working with people. People in the cybersecurity field can be a little less social, so my experience as a teacher helped to be able to talk to anyone. Being in higher education also prepared me to talk about different subjects at a higher level so that even if I don’t have experience with a topic, I feel comfortable asking questions. 

What is your advice to incoming cybersecurity students at Springboard?

  • Be ready to put a lot of time and effort into it. I love school, so that part wasn't hard for me, but my mentor told me that students fall behind when they don’t keep up with the coursework.
  • Have the discipline to struggle. You should understand that this is a new field and be ready to put in the work.
  • Use your mentor! I regret not spending more time talking to my mentor about cybersecurity.
  • Emphasize networking and career services! Even though it’s hard to reach out to people that you don't know, it pays off. 

Find out more and read Springboard reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Springboard.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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